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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  September 19, 2012 7:00pm-8:00pm EDT

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and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: two top government officials have stepped down in the wake of an internal report that cites justice department failings in a probe of illegal gun sales in the southwest. it was the latest turn in a story that's provoked a confrontation between congressional republicans and attorney general eric holder. jeffrey brown has the story. >> brown: the report faulted the department for errors in judgment and management failures in operation "fast and furious." in the 471-page report, inspector general michael horowitz referred 14 people, including senior official lanny breuer, for possible disciplinary action. the report found no evidence that attorney general eric holder was informed of the operation before the scandal broke. that happened after the shooting death of a u.s. border patrol agent in december 2010. the report said lower-level officials should have briefed holder on the situation earlier on. for more on the findings, we're joined by evan perez, who covers
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the justice department for the "wall street journal." evan, welcome. remind us first what this was all about. >> well, this was an operation conceived in phoenix, in the a.t.f. office in phoenix. and the plan was to basically go after big-gun traffickers. they wanted to follow guns and see where it led and see if they could get to some major figures in gun trafficking. it was in 2009/2010 and they allowed, essentially, agents allowed about 2,000 firearms to be trafficked to suspected smugglers, many of which were-- have turned up in months since in crime scenes in mexico and the united states. there was very little effort to interdict the weapons to stop them from going across the border and, of course, with the death of agent bryan terry and other deaths, we see what the consequences are. >> brown: so the key questions became-- of course, it became a political issue, who is responsible for this, how much were the white house and the attorney general's office involved? so what does the report tell us? >> well, the harshest criticism comes down for an official in the criminal division, his name is jason weinstein. he resigned yesterday under
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pressure. and essentially he is called out for repeatedly having access to documents, wiretap applications, for instance, he had-- he read summaries of and perhaps didn't read all of it and didn't ask follow-up questions. the inspector general says that, you know, if he knew about an earlier operation called "wide receiver" in the bush administration. now, that was 2006 and 2007 and allowed about 400 firearms to be trafficked. and weinstein finds out about this in early 2009 and instead of making sure it didn't happen again, it appears that weinstein and lanny breuer, his boss, were more concerned, according to this report, were more concerned about public relations management, try to make sure that they didn't get bad press and the a.t.f. didn't get bad press over it. >> brown: so some of those top officials are, as i said, referred for possible
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disciplinary action. but as to the attorney general himself, no evidence of any wrongdoing? >> right, he doesn't know about this until early 2011 when senator charles grassley of iowa in his office tells him about it, hands him a letter and says "i'd like you to look into this." he wasn't aware that there were two firearms at the scene of the bryan terry murder that were tied to this operation and he apparently-- the first thing he did was ask for an investigation by the inspector general, which is why this has come forward now. >> brown: now, is it therefore now up to eric holder as to what kind of disciplinary action is-- or whether there is any against the people that were cited? >> he's taken a couple of actions. weinstein's gone, ken melson, the former head of the a.t.f., has retired. and i'm told that the a.t.f. is now referring to the report to all the other employees who were there in-- are seen as responsible. i'm told by an official that he
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admonished lanny breuer for his failings here. but what we expect now is that there's going to be an internal process, some of these people are covered by civil servant rules and it takes time to see who is going to get forced out or any other punishments will come forward. >> brown: i don't know how much you've been able to talk to people at justice today. are they taking this as a damning report or as in some sense clearing-- certainly clearing? >> well, both, on one hand it's a damning report, it really tells you that there are a lot of signs that people had that they could have stopped this. that they could have prevented hundreds of these weapons from going across the border. at the same time there's been a cloud that's hung over the department with the attorney general under fire and this clears him of any responsibility necessarily of the actions directly here at the same time, this shows there was terrible
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management failures at the justice department, at a.t.f., they failed to manage the situation and failed to prevent in the case of bryan terry, a death. >> brown: as to, for example, congressman darrell issa, who is one of the people pushing the administration very hard on this and attorney general eric holder, i saw a statement today where he says today's report confirms findings of his congressional investigation so the political toking and froing would continue here. it doesn't sound like republicans would be satisfied. >> right, they have a lawsuit going. they're trying to get documents from the justice department and from the white house which ises protected by executive privilege. the president has declared that in june. and so they're going to continue fighting over those. some of those documents were available to the inspector general so it's interesting he had access to document documentt congress has not had. there's still going to be some-- we expect some litigation over that. and there's some questions, obviously, the republicans are going to point out that there
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are a couple of white house officials not allowed to be interviewed by the inspector general. >> brown: all of that led to the contempt charge against the attorney general but there's no signs the administration the changing in terms of the documents? >> that's correct. that's something that will be worked out in the next few months. >> brown: evan perez of the "wall street journal," thank you very much. >> ifill: still to come on the "newshour": a high honor for a democracy advocate; lessons learned from chicago's teachers' strike; what voters are hearing in this raucous presidential election and journalist bob woodward's new book. but first, with the other news of the day. here's kwame holman. >> holman: republican presidential candidate mitt romney moved today to get past criticism that he's written off half the country. romney's been taking fire for saying last may that nearly half of americans don't pay income taxes and don't care about tax cuts, so he can't expect their support. today, in atlanta, he insisted average americans would do far better under him, than under president obama.
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>> the question in this campaign is not who cares about the poor and middle class. i do; he does. the question is, who can help the poor and middle class. i can; he can't. he's proven it in four years. >> holman: romney also cited a 1998 speech in which mr. obama said he believes in redistribution of wealth to make sure everybody's got a shot. but white house spokesman jay carney dismissed the criticism. >> all of us who follow politics and policy, whether we're on this side or your side of the podium, have seen circumstances like this where a campaign is having a very bad day or a very bad week. and in circumstances like that, there are efforts made-- sometimes desperate efforts made to change the subject. >> holman: also today, topics for the first of three presidential debates were announced. the moderator-- the "newshour's" own jim lehrer-- said there will be three, 15-minute segments on the economy, and three more on health care, the role of
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government and governing. the debate is set for october 3 in denver. a french satirical magazine published cartoons today that risk igniting new outrage in the muslim world. they featured vulgar images of the prophet muhammad and satirized the violent reaction to an american-made film that insults islam. muslim leaders in france called the cartoons a disgraceful provocation. but the magazine's publishing director insisted it's about free speech. >> ( translated ): muhammad is sacred for the muslims and i can understand that. but for muslims only. i am atheist. muhammad is not sacred for me. i understand perfectly that the muslims don't violate the law of blasphemy, and i don't blame muslims for not laughing at our drawings. but they shouldn't tell me under which law i should live. i live under french law and i don't live under quranic law. >> holman: the french government appealed for calm, and stepped up security at its embassies in about 20 countries. in syria, a pair of bombs struck a suburb of damascus. state media said the explosions
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caused a number of civilian casualties. meanwhile to the north, syrian rebels captured a key border crossing on the turkish frontier. that lets them ferry supplies into syria, as they continue to fight for control of aleppo, some 100 miles away. a senior coalition officer in afghanistan declared today that western troops will not allow insider attacks to ruin the nato mission. so far this year, 51 international troops have been killed by afghan soldiers and police. and on sunday, nato scaled back joint military operations. in kabul today, australian brigadier general roger noble said his forces won't let the taliban drive a wedge between them and their afghan comrades. >> we're all professional soldiers. we're going to keep fighting here until hell freezes over. so i mean i still i trust the people i deal with, i'm just careful. and that's only sensible. on a practical level it's not
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going to change the campaign or what's happened here. probably the bigger impact is back where you are and the perception at home about what does it mean when your friends are shooting you. >> holman: in another development, afghan president hamid karzai urged his citizens to help find ways to make peace with insurgents. some japanese businesses in china reopened today. that followed days of protests against japan's decision to buy disputed islands. the islands are in the east china sea, known by different names in the two countries. they're near possible gas and oil reserves. on wall street today, stocks managed small gains after positive reports on home construction and home sales. the dow jones industrial average gained 13 points to close near 13,578. the nasdaq rose nearly five points to close at 3,182. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to gwen. >> ifill: longtime myanmar
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>> warner: for aung san suu kyi, one of the world's most celebrated democracy activists, it's the first visit to the united states in more than 40 years. and today the myanmar opposition leader was honored with the congressional gold medal at a ceremony in the capitol rotunda. from the depths of my heart, i thank you the people of america and you their representatives for keeping us in your hearts and minds during the dark years when freedom and justice seemed beyond our reach. >> warner: congress first granted suu kyi its highest award-- in absentia-- back in 2008, when she was under house arrest. ordeal that of a long ot started in 1989, when the military-led government declared martial law and cracked down on all protest or dissent. suu kyi spent 15 of the next 21 years as a political prisoner.
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her determination was apparent when she was released in november of 2010. >> i must be honest and say >> warner: in january of this year, the nobel peace prize winner announced she would run for parliament. elections took place in april, and her party, the national league for democracy, scored a sweeping victory, winning 43 of the 45 seats at stake. it's now the largest opposition party in the national legislature, though it holds fewer than 10% of the seats. all this came as myanmar, formerly called burma, moved toward greater openness under new president, thein sein, once a member of the old military junta. his government has lifted many press restrictions and released
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hundreds of political prisoners. but hundreds remain. and at a washington event yesterday, secretary of state hillary clinton said the u.s. wants to see even greater reforms. >> i think one of the important reasons for her visit at this time is to remind us of how much more still lies ahead, from strengthening the rule of law and democratic institutions to addressing the challenges in many of the ethnic conflicts. >> warner: washington did restore full diplomatic relations with myanmar in january. and derek mitchell was named the first american ambassador there since 1990. the obama administration also has lifted some economic sanctions, allowing for american investment in myanmar. and, it is currently weighing lifting others, including the ban on imports from the southeast asian country. yesterday in washington, suu kyi urged a greater easing of u.s. sanctions
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>> i think that our people must start taking responsibility for their own destiny. i do not think we should depend on u.s. sanctions to keep up the momentum of our movement for democracy. >> warner: her visit also included a private meeting with president obama at the white house late today. next, she goes to new york to address the u.n. general assembly. >> warner: today, the treasury department eased some restrictions on the current government, removing myanmar's president from a list of individuals barred from doing business or owning property in the u.s. i'm joined now by maureen aung- thwin, who was just taken off the myanmar government's black list in the last few weeks. she's director of the burma project at the open society institute. and jennifer quigley advocacy director of the u.s. campaign for burma. welcome to you both. let's reflect a moment on this moment. how big an event is this not
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just for aung san suu kyi but for myanmar? >> it's huge. it's huge. and for burmese, that's-- it's probably the biggest gathering of burmese in-- at least in the capital. and i have a feeling most of the burmese i saw there, including myself, had never really been to the rotunda. so it was like a stunning very emotional event for us. and to see her there, you know, right there in washington. >> warner: jennifer quigley, how far do you think burma, peian mar, has moved since her release from house arrest less than two years ago? >> the moves have been definitely significant. i definitely feel as if there has been such a change from the former dictator to president that i know sane. and even though he was a member of that regime we're seeing a drastic difference in policy.
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allowing suu kyi to win an election but to be seated in parliament-- something she was denyd from 1990-- are very significant positive steps. so as clinton said, there are many to go that still need to be addressed but, you know, it is sort of a moment to appreciate sort of how far we have come in the last few years. >> warner: and, maureen aung-thwin, what difference has it made for you, who's been on a blacklist for a long time, not allowed to go back to myanmar or for the dissidents who've been released. is it a palpable difference? >> oh, it's very palpable. i've been on the black list for over 20 years, so that means i was denies being able to go back to where i was born so before they took me off the blacklist they actually gave me a visa. so i've been back three times. but it was for work, you know, for my foundation. so i couldn't, like, spend my time just basking in family and all that. so it was-- but it was still very palpable experience for me.
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i didn't think i'd see them again before-- you know, because it just seemed like they were so entrenched that it would never change. >> warner: now, but i have read that some dissidents who were released can't get visas to leave. is that the case? >> passports, yes, right. in fact, ming co ny is probably the biggest dissent after aung san suu kyi is being honored by the national endowment for democracy. they wouldn't give him his passport and finally they said they would and he said what about my colleagues, ex-political prisoners who were not given passports so they could travel like other people can get. >> warner: so jennifer quigley, from your assessment-- and you both have been studying this country for a long time-- how committed to do you think this new government is to continue to advance on the path to greater openness? >> i think the issue the government is no longer a monolith. we used to look at his as they
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were one voice. they're no longer one voice. so they've been divided into reformers and, yeah, we truly belief those who are reform minded believe in moving along the path towards more reforms led by president thein sein and the speaker of the house. the problem is they're not united and compete with each other. then you have the hard-liners who don't want to see their power evaporated, particularly members of the military. so the big concern that we've had so far is that the reforms that have taken place have not threatened in any way the power base of those who have power currently. and the real test for whether these reforms will move forward is reformers convincing hard-liners and hard-liners actually giving up some of their power. >> warner: so think brings us to the question of u.s. leverage. the eyes has, as we put it, easing sanctions bit by bit in exchange for certain reforms. first of all, do you think that's been a wise strategy?
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do you think it's been an effective one? >> that they've had it or been easing it? >> warner: both. >> yeah, i definitely agree with what suu kyi said yesterday, about it was great political leverage for us. and-- and to ease it, yes, i definitely think that it was that critical time where i think they knew, the regime knew that it had to change. so it was the time when president obama said, you know, if you open your fist or whatever we'll put-- we'll give out our hand. and he did. >> warner: so then the question is, of course, should the u.s. do more. aung san suu kyi yesterday seemed to be suggesting if not lifting them entirely, suspending them. something fairly dramatic. senator jim webb has been in the forefront of this and has said you have to let people see the economic benefits of a free society. what's your view on that? >> i mean, we're not in agreement in a sense that we feel as if there's disparity between where the reforms are taking place and who's
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benefiting from them and you're seeing that in urban centers and not in rural areas or conflict zones and ethnic minority territory. so our concern is that you need to send a signal that there needs to be reform on a greater front than there has been so far and that should be tied to the lifting of further sanctions. >> warner: do you think that greater u.s. business investment in burma or, in fact, allowing it to flourish is going to be good for that process? >> we feel as if it's going to have both a positive and a negative impact because we advised that there be certain investments prohibited, particularly the extractive industries which are-- >> warner: such as? >> natural gas, teak, mining and hydropower. most of them are in ethnic minority territories in which conflict has been reaching for decade. and so it has and will continue to exacerbate human rights abuses and conflict if the u.s. doesn't make sure that we-- if we were going to have a net positive impact with our investment as opposed to a net
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negative we're going to have to monitor and watch and do human rights diligent work on companies that invest in sectors that are known to fuel conflict in burma. >> warner: so the other thing aung san suu kyi said yesterday is the u.s. has to stay engaged on a lot of different fronts. she mentioned rule of law. what more, other than the sanctions debate, can the u.s. do to keep helping, encouraging myanmar on this path? >> well, you know, the united states used to have quite-- was quite enengaged, very engaged in burma which used to be the flagship cosmopolitan place in all of southeast asia. so they had-- fulbright was really a huge program. they had a lot of exchanges. burmese could go-- come out and be educated in the states-- i mean all the time. and lots of research is going back in. there was a lot of cultural exchange and people-to-people exchange. and i think that has been looking for many decades for 50 years. and i think that will-- then you don't even have to go into
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sanctions or anything. you-- i think that can really help bridge the gap again. it was a very nice relationship that burma and america had. >> warner: well thank you both very much and much more to watch in the months and years ahead. and you can watch more of yesterday's conversation between suu kyi and secretary of state clinton. find a link to the institute of peace on our website. >> woodruff: now, chicago schools were back in session today. ray suarez takes a look at the conclusion of that city's teacher strike. >> suarez: chicago mayor rahm emanuel greeted students and faculty at frederic chopin elementary school this morning, as the nation's third largest school district went back to work. >> good morning, mr. mayor, how are you.
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>> suarez: the welcome back for some 350,000 students and more than 26,000 teachers and support staff, followed a seven-day strike, the first by the chicago teachers union in 25 years. but tuesday evening, some 800 union delegates cheered after a nearly unanimous vote to end the strike. >> we got what we wanted. that's what it seems like. i'm just glad we're going back to work that's all. >> suarez: two days earlier, the delegates had balked at returning to work, as they demanded more time to study the tentative deal. but union president karen lewis welcomed the ultimate outcome last night. >> we feel very positive about moving forward. we feel grateful that we have a united union and that when a union moves together, amazing things happen. >> suarez: leaders of the city's public school district also struck a celebratory note at their own news conference. public school c.e.o. jean-claude
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brizard. >> but with this agreement we now have the foundation for transformation. with an amazing education team and the folks we have back at central office, with the support of our teachers and our principals we know that we can make chicago the best urban school district in america. >> suarez: the contract would run three years with an option for a fourth year. it was also widely reported that teachers would receive an average pay raise of 17.6% over that period. in addition, the schools would fill at least half of new job openings with highly rated laid- off teachers. and under a new evaluation system, student test results would account for nearly a third of a teacher's rating, by the third year of the contract. all in all, not a perfect deal, according to union president lewis, but acceptable. >> there is no such thing as a perfect contract that would make all of us happy and we're realistic about that, but the other issue is, do we stay on strike forever until every little thing is capable of being gotten? >> suarez: mayor emanuel called
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it an honest compromise. he conceded on some fronts-- losing his fight to institute merit pay, for example. but he pointed to other provisions, including a longer school day and school year, and said chicago students will be the better for them. >> starting in kindergarten, by the time they finish high school they'll get two and a half years more of schooling than they would have had over the old system. that is a fundamental departure from the past. >> suarez: the teachers' union members still need to ratify the deal. that's expected to come within the next couple of weeks. for a look at some of the broader issues of education reform that the chicago strike brought into the limelight. we turn to linda darling- hammond, she is professor of teaching and teacher education at stanford university. and michael mcshane, a research fellow in education policy studies at the american enterprise institute, a conservative washington think tank. michael mcshane, though it wasn't all about money the teachers got a raise, rahm
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emanuel got a new evaluation system for teachers that he wanted, the kids are back in school. is it as the mayor calls it a grand compromise? >> i think it's definitely a compromise. how grand it is is probably a little bit up for debate. depending on how you look at the issue, if you are for more robust systems of teacher accountability that's definitely something that is part of this agreement. up to a third of a teacher's evaluation is going to be based on student test scores and as far as hiring teachers that only half of those that are in the pool that can be hired are-- those that have already been laid off, the other half, principals will be free to choose on their own. >> suarez: professor darling-hammond in the past we've had recent debates in d.c., new york, boston, l.a., is this following a pattern and setting a pattern for coming negotiations in other big city school systems? >> well, it certainly might and particularly around the issue of
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teacher evaluation which has come on to the national landscape with incentives and encouragement from the u.s. department of education. i think the compromise, as you called it, did secure some pieces that will improve the capacity of teachers to improve we valuation as well as as well as for the city to do the evaluations in productive ways. but there are some real land mines in the teacher evaluation landscape that are certainly being contended all over the country. >> suarez: on the picket lines, professor, you heard a lot of teachers talking about not these technical disputes but about respect. the chicago teachers union had delivered a generation of labor peace, there hasn' hadn't been a strike in 25 years, they worked with school closings, reassignments and were still being blamed for everything that was going wrong with education
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in chicago. was there more at play here than just the contract negotiation? >> oh, absolutely. i think we have also seen over recent years a battle between different visions of what we need to do to improve education in the united states and one piece of what's been ignored in this that conversation quite saufb that we have growing childhood poverty with lots of side effects that influence what happens in schools and influence what teachers have to be able to do. we have one in four children in poverty, way above any other industrialized country in the world and when we look at progress in the schools quite often the discourse has been that it's all about the fault of teachers. if anything goes wrong it's all the teachers, not the declining budgets, growing poverty, increased class sizes, some of the kindergartens in chicago are 40 children now. the lack of resources for
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meeting the needs of children. so i think the point about let's have a rerip roe cal mutual accountability system in which teachers are held accountable for what they can be held accountable for but the system is held accountable for the resources is definitely an issue that's going to be on the agenda in lots of places. >> suarez: michael mcshane, held accountable for what they can be held accountable for. would any teacher want to teach the toughest kids if they're going to be assessed in this way? >> you know, i absolutely think so. under the current generation of assessments that we have now as part of the no child left behind program instituted by the bush administration teachers and schools are evaluated based on levels of student achievement. so a bar is set for what students are supposed to know in the fourth grade. and students are judged how many-- a teacher or school is judged by how many students they're able to get over that bar. under those circumstances, you're absolutely right. it's a huge disincentive to teach the lowest-performing
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students. however with assessments that measure growth in fact it may lead to the fact that students who are the lowest perform having the biggest opportunity to grow and might do a better job in making the system more equitable. >> suarez: what do you think of that, stphroef that the battle lines are shifting. that teachers are willing to be assessed, willing to have their performance evaluated but just want to be part of the negotiation over how that machinery is put in place? >> yes, it has to be fair, it has to be accurate. in this current bar cane in chicago there will be at least three measures of learning that are looked that in that 30% so that you're able to look at in a broadway. one of the problems with our current tests, the state tests that are being used in illinois and other states to measure so-called value added or gains is that the tests are designed by federal law only to measure the grade level and not above or
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below the grade level. so the two-thirds of kids who are already achieving above or below grade level, their gain cans not be measured on the tests because the tests don't ask questions that allow you to even evaluate those gains. so teachers are concerned about the accuracy of the information that will be used to evaluate them. we know that there have been distortions and biases in those kinds of state test score based systems and they think i think appropriately ask for a basket of evidence that allows us to look in many ways at how kids are achieving, how they're growing, how they're learning and what the influence of the teacher is. hopefully taking into account the influences of all the other things that affect student achievement as well. >> suarez: public media's held a series of teacher town halls throughout the year and a lot of teachers have said "oh, i'm ready to be assessed but no one's ever come into my classroom.
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they're basing it on the standardized tests." is that really the next front in this national negotiation about how we're going to bring the system into play? >> i don't think there is any serious evaluation plan out there that is planning to base teacher evaluation 100% on student test scores. even the most sort of aggressive systems, the impact system that's here in washington, d.c. caps it off at 50%. so in all of these systems that are being developed-- which i think the point is well take than there's still kinks that need to be worked out-- but even the most aggressive are only talking 50% test scores and the rests will be multiple measures, the professional expertise of principals, could be peer evaluations, any way districts or states would like to work those out. >> suarez: do so you do you see a happy-- >> the "new york times" just reported that the d.c. schools are reducing that proportion from 50% to 30% because of some of the problems they've found with the particular measures they're using. but the key issue is can we get time and expertise on the part
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of principals to get into classrooms to really look carefully at practice to find time to do that and to do it accurately and well and then have additional teachers available to help teachers who are struggling? because principals don't have time and sometimes the expertise to do that in every subject area. >> suarez: so is a new system going to be found, professor, finally, very quickly, with the time we have left, that will allow a more comprehensive view of really what goes on 9:00 to 3:00 in the classroom? >> absolutely. and there fortunately are districts that are doing just that that have put in place good systems with trained evaluators, good observation systems, multiple measures of student learning. we can learn a lot of from places like columbus, like those that have been put in place in a variety of states across the country to ensuring that evaluation helps teachers grow and learn and get better and
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also identifies those who need help and, if they get help and don't improve to help them tpao +*eupbt find another profession quickly and efficiently. >> suarez: linda darling-han monday, michael mcshane, thank you both. >> thanks for having us. >> ifill: the candidates are in hand to hand combat. the polls are tight. but what's driving the voters? president obama is leading for now, but a number of new polls out this week show it's about more than the race. it's about leadership. a pew research center survey released today finds president obama outpaces mitt romney-- 5 to 37%--hersn te are askedvo wskch candidate has good judgment in a crisis. and even though voters still think the nation is on the wrong track, an "nbc news/wall street journal" poll shows 42% of voters are optimistic the economy will improve next year. that's up six points in a single month and 15 points since july.
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but the electorate remains divided. according to pew, 69% of romney voters say they are angry at mr. obama. 49% of obama voters say the same about romney. so what does this tell us about the mood of the electorate? for that, we turn to andrew kohut of the pew research center, and mark blumenthal, senior polling editor of "huffington post." andy, as you looked at your poll numbers today, what was the most revealing thing that told you about what voters are thinking? >> voters areless interested in this campaign. they're more critical of its negativity. but 80% of republicans and 79% of democrats say it matters who wins. and if you look at all of the turnout indicators they suggest high turnout. probably at the 60% level as we saw in 2008 and 2004. we're not going tv 51%-52% turnout. people are engaged, but they're
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engaged in a negative way. >> ifill: people are engaged, mark? >> i think one of the no nuggets from the pew research survey that stood out was the percentage of african americans who said they're paying a lot of attention to the campaign. that's 70%. >> pelley: i>> ifill: is that m? >> it's the same as 2008. so if it signals the same turnout, there are sedates tipping blue that will stay blue that have large african american populations that will turn out heavily. >> ifill: voters are engaged, are they enthusiastic about these two candidates? >> i think the evidence from the pew survey and from others says that there's a lot more enthusiasm among obama supporters about him than among romney. now, romney supporters are enthusiastically anti-obama. so i think that at best equals out. >> ifill: this weird dichotomy about everyone thinks still that the country is on the wrong track yet being optimistic about the future, how do you figure that out?
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>>'s been a lot of ups and downs. the latest michigan survey will come out or has come out showing a pretty high number but it only brings us back to where we were in jan. >> pelley: what do you mean by "high number"? >> in terms of consumer confidence. so there's a fragility to people's attitudes about the future because we've been up and down and people have been disappointed. i think the key thing is people think it's really important, that the choice is really important. republicans think it's important because they so abhor president obama and his policies and the democrats are not about to accept mitt romney who they have a very poor opinion of. >> ifill: is this something, mark, that's new since the conventions? all year long we've been hearing voters are so turned off by the negativity that you think that would depress enthusiasm and engagement. >> i think the democratic
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conventions appear-- at least from the snapshot at the moment-- to have reenergizeed a lot of democrats who i think were feeling badly about everything about politics and the economy and i think obama succeeded in convincing a small number of voters that his economic policies are under way and going to work that may have been more skeptical. >> ifill: romney did not? >> i think the key, key question in the campaign is which candidate is going to succeed with voters in that he is going to succeed in fixing the economy and romney hasn't moved ahead on that and i think in the reason for that is the result from the pew are you search survey that shows by a 66-23 margin, americans choose obama as someone who cares more about their lives and i think the question they're asking themselves is not just who's going to fix the economy but for whom. are they going to fix it for me and my family? >> ifill: do these polls tell
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us anything about how people view these two as a commander. we're voting for commander in chief. last week we had a dustup about foreign policy that continueed into this week. is there anything you're seeing as these numbers that show people can imagine one as president and not the other? >> the problem really here is for romney because his favorable ratings haven't gone up. he's not seen as any more credible than he was prior to conventions. they don't think he is honest in an honest and trustworthy to a great extent. he's afraid to take unpopular positions and they don't see him as sympathetic. he doesn't understand people like him. doesn't connect with the average guy. and there's no-- there's no change in these numbers. he did not fulfill his mission to improve public confidence in him as a leader in personal terms and certainly, as mark was
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noting, in terms of strong leader, good judgment in a crisis. obama's got him by double digits on these things. >> ifill: how hardened are voters' attitudes about these candidates. we know the cliche has been it's just the 10% or the 6% or 7% in the mid-who will remain undecided or up for grabs. are people-- are their heels dug in at this point? >> i think a lot of this is the nature of presidential campaigns that most shroeters know who they're going to vote for and there's a fair amount of division and part of the challenge for both campaigns here is that the-- that 10% or 15% or whatever the number is, these are voters who tend to be disengaged in politics. and tend to discount a lot of the arguments that they hear askinasbeing just the noise and political bickering. so it's hard for them to make this case, the cases they want to make. >> ifill: when you look through these numbers and break it down demographically in terms of who's supporting whom, you mentioned african americans. what about gender splits and
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income splits, education split. >> well, by gender we have men about evenly divided between the two candidates in a very sizable obama margin among women. there is both an education and income effect where the republican candidate does somewhat better. but race is the big factor. romney leads among white voters and most of that lead is concentrated among working class white voters, not white college graduates. so class matters, race matters. one of the interesting things that we've done in this poll is we've looked at whether racism-- a set of attitudes which are correlated with racism-- has any greater impact on the propensity to vote for obama than it had in 2008 and it was there in 2008. he won despite the undercurrent of racism, we are not a post-racial society, that was the truth.
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but it's no less true now or no more true now. >> ifill: any good news for romney in any of this polling? >> well, i suppose the one-- the one-- get back to the engagement numbers. the one place where interest is down most sharply in this survey is among younger voters who were more heavily for obama and who still tend to go for obama. and that's probably the one place where, you know, if the engagement is riled up by the conventions, that hasn't happened and, you know, the best news, i suppose, for romney is that there's still six and a half weeks left. >> ifill: and we'll be here every one of t wef coals ngekveris thi half weeks covering this story. mark blumenthal, andy kohut, thanks so much. >> you're welcome. >> woodruff: and finally tonight, we turn from presidential politics to the partisan gridlock in washington. that's the subject of a new book by journalist bob woodward, who offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the sparring between
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congress and the white house over fiscal issues. i sat down with him yesterday. pulitzer prize winner bob woodward as written 17 books that look inside the white house, congress, and other branches of american government. he's back this month chronicling the failure of the president and congressional leaders last year to reach a brand bargain on how to attack the budget deficit and the debt. the book is called "the price of politics" and bob woodward joins us now. welcome. >> thank you. >> woodruff: so when you started working on this book, what was it that you wanted to capture? >> well, it's clear that the economy is the issue and impacts everyone. and leading up to a presidential-- this year, i mean, it's obvious that what happened and what-- you find when you do these books, the news coverage is excellent but it runs by history and you have to go back and say, okay, let's
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get the meeting notes, it's get the documents, do the extensive interviews so you do a full excavation of what really happened. >> woodruff: what was it about that-- it was pretty much a six-week period that you mainly focus on in 2011. >> yes, about half the book is that, last summer. >> woodruff: why that period? >> well, because that's when we were at the edge of the cliff and if there was a default, as the treasury secretary tight told thsecretary timgeithner tof we don't fix this we could trigger a global melt down, a depression that would be worse than the 1930s. and the impact on everyone would be join. and he also said this isn't just a political or an economic decision you have to make, it's a moral choice you're faced
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with. if we have a default it's going to hurt the people at the low end of the economic spectrum the most because they're least able to deal with it. >> woodruff: what's an example of a mistake made on both sides? clearly they didn't reach an agreement, and i want to ask about the president in particular in a minute. but let me ask you first, the congressional side, what was the mistake they made? >> well, that there is a war going on in the republican party which i document here where the speaker boehner and his deputy eric cantor don't see eye to eye on lots of things. cantor is tied much more to the extreme conservative wing, the tea party people. at one point where boehner looks like he's considering adding more revenue to the deal, more taxes, he calls cantor down and cantor's chief of staff-- not cantor, but his chief of staff-- asks the speaker "how many votes do you think you can get for?"
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and the speaker says "about 170." and the chief of staff, a staffer, says "you're crazy." and cantor backs up the chief of staff, they think he can only get 50 votes for it and that's when boehner goes into this period of about a day when he won't return the president's phone calls. so-- there is-- >> woodruff: it's a very dramatic few days there. >> and it's just not-- you know, it's-- even last-- you know, this summer as they're trying to figure out things, the supercommittee is working or in the beginning period of the obama presidency you see these struggles and in the end the politics driving it, that's part of the problem. >> woodruff: you make it clear that you think the main responsibility lies with the president because you said he's
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the president, it's on his shoulders, what was it that he could have done and should have done? >> well, first of all presidents have to work their will. they have to solve problems and the republicans are a brick wall with the cement wall behind it with a steel girder behind that. but you have to find some way to break through or get around that to solve the big problems. and the president engaged, worked hard on it, very sincere but you look at the details of this, some of the negotiations, some of the proposals were made impulsively by telephone and no one else is the extension as best i can tell when the president is talking to the speaker and asking for more revenue and there is a monumental miscommunication here that sets the whole thing off. there's no fallback position the treasury secretary is running
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around shouting "fire! we are going to do something that will last for generations if we don't fix it. >> woodruff: the k you put your finger on what it was that president obama didn't have or didn't do? >> he does not have the relations with these people. for instance, specifically joe biden has this relationship with mitch mcconnell, the republican senate leader. he's known in the west wing, biden is, as the mcconnell whisperer, the person who can deal with mcconnell, they've known each other for decades, they don't agree on things. but it's the kind of old deal-making philosophy one for you; one for me. and at key points in this three and a half year period it's biden who comes and bail it is administration and the president out >> woodruff: you have
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reported on presidents since richard nixon and watergate. i've had other people say this is such a difficult time, historically, intransgent, poisonous relationships. can anyone lead in these circumstances? >> bill clinton says well no one could fix this fully and, you know, you cans may a case for that. but it depends on your expectation. if our expectations are such that, oh, there's gridlock and you can't get around it then we aren't going to solve the problems. there are all kinds of difficult thing out there. getting and tracking osama bin laden was tough, it took ten years to do it, but they did it. and the problem with all of these economic debates is-- and people think, well, it's about a budget or it's about credit worthiness and so forth. no, it's about this country's balance sheet.
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we have $13 trillion of i.o.u.s out in the world and we're going to have to go boar or are more. >> woodruff: so if this president is reelected, is it your view that these are skills that he can pick up and have in a second term or is it-- or is it just something you either have or you don't have? >> there are big themes here, but also there are big lessons. and obama's quite smart and adaptable. i think he feels that if he's reelected he would be relegitimized and be able to do things in the second term. he may have to do things in the second term. let's remember, he recently gave himself on these issues an incomplete. if we had him here, you know, he's in a political campaign and he's going to say, look, i've done this and that and he has done this and that but he didn't take it over the finish line.
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and everyone in this country is in peril, frankly, because we do not have a government that can fix these problems. and the president is the one-- you know, the buck stops there. >> woodruff: in this term or a second one if there is one. the book is "the price of politics." bob woodward, thanks very much. >> ifill: again, the major developments of the day: the justice department's inspector general laid out multiple failings in a bungled gun-trafficking operation known as "fast and furious." and myanmar opposition leader aung san suu kyi was honored in washington with the congressional gold medal, for her years of pressing for democracy in her homeland. the unemployment rate is high, but many jobs remain unfilled. why? you can find the answer online. kwame holman has more. >> holman: many applicants
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aren't qualified. paul solman talked to a professor who blames employers for the jobs-skills mismatch problem. find that on "making sense." and are you an undecided voter in tampa or orlando, florida who will watch the presidential debates? answer a few questions through our public insight network on our homepage. you might be selected to participate in a conversation with ray suarez following the first debate. all that and more is on our website: judy? >> woodruff: and that's the "newshour" for tonight. on thursday, we'll look at a fragment of papyrus from the fourth century that suggests jesus had a wife. i'm judy woodruff. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. we'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening. thank you and good night.f major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
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